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March 31, 2005

Antique Blogs – The Great Maple Syrup Crisis

I wrote this for publication in Vermont papers in August of 1979 when it seemed to me that we Vermonters were being a little sanctimonious about energy producers.

Some of you may not remember the great Maple Syrup Crisis of 1984. It came just after Quebec separated from Canada.  Shipments of syrup from Quebec to the States were temporarily disrupted while the new country of New France replaced the major highways which were given back to the Canadian Federal Government as part of the divorce settlement. With Quebec syrup cut off, the remaining American supply was insufficient to meet demand. Prices rose. Long lines appeared at supermarkets. The crisis was on.

President Carter assigned responsibility for dealing with the crisis to the Energy Department. Thousands of bureaucrats swung into action. Special editions of the Federal Register had to be scheduled to print all the new regulations.

Keystone of the President’s program was the elimination of spongy pancakes. “Once these syrup guzzlers are eliminated from America’s breakfast table,” the President said, “the situation will be less sticky.”

The Senate wanted an outright ban on the sale of spongy syrup guzzlers. The House of Representatives wanted an escalating tax based on average syrup consumption per cubic centimeter. The butter lobby joined hands with the margarine lobby to oppose both measures. They feared that less absorbent pancakes would use less spread.

Senator Alamo from Texas made a heartrending speech. “My constituents are being robbed,” he said. “The poor people of Texas are paying $35 per gallon for syrup that sells in Vermont for only $20. This great burden should be shared equally by all Americans.”

He proposed that syrup sales in Vermont be taxed $7.50 per gallon bringing the price up to $27.50. He further proposed that the $7.50 tax paid by Vermonters he rebated to Texans bringing their price per gallon down to $27.50. That way everybody would pay the same price.

“Equality made this country great,” the Senator said. “Those woodchucks are driving around their maple farms in Cadillacs. They throw syrup on the snow in total disregard of the needs of their fellow Americans. They refuse to tap their trees more than one month a year.” [nb. In case you don’t live in maple country,  trees are only tapped in the spring for the few weeks when the sap is rising.  Sugar on snow is a local delicacy made by throwing hot syrup from the distilling vat onto cold snow.  Didn’t have to explain this to the Vermonters the column was written for.]

In response to this accusation, the Syrup and Sweetener Agency, SASA. for short, ordered each maple producer with more than five taps to file a 700 page form on each day that sap was not flowing. “No excuse will be accepted,” SASA said, “that sap is going to flow 365 days a year or we’ll know the reason why.”

Senator Green from Vermont responded in defense of his constituents. “Why don’t you plant your own maple trees in Texas.’ he said.

“The environmental impact would be unbearable,” Senator Alamo responded.  “In the summer we wouldn’t be able to see the oil rigs. In the fall there would be leaves all over the desert. And worst of all would be winter. Ralph Nader has proven that maple trees cause snow.”

Any resemblance between the Maple Syrup Crisis and any other crisis real or alleged, is purely intentional.

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